N.S. organizations, communities provide safe haven for Ukrainians fleeing war

·3 min read
N.S. organizations, communities provide safe haven for Ukrainians fleeing war

A Ukrainian couple fleeing the war in their home country is settling into a new life in rural Cape Breton, thanks to the help of their son and a local telecommunications company.

It's a story that will be repeated as Nova Scotia communities and organizations work together to help settle Ukrainians coming to the province to escape the conflict raging in their homeland.

Sviat Petrushchak, a Ukrainian living in Cape Breton since 2019, recently brought his parents to the island to keep them safe during the war.

His parents fled to Slovakia to escape the conflict and eventually made their way to Krakow, Poland where they stayed at the home of a relative.

Petrushchak's mother Halyna is an electrical engineer and his father Mykola is a carpenter.

His parents had never flown before and speak no English so he flew to Poland to escort them back to his new home.

Translating for his parents on CBC's Information Morning Cape Breton, Petruschak said they feel very safe and welcomed in Cape Breton.

"She's scared...but I think she's [feeling] positive," he said of his mother.

"They're very happy that Canada welcomed them and they feel like they're in Ukraine — but just 8,000 kilometres far away," Petrushchak chuckled, translating what his father said.

Sviat Petrushchak
Sviat Petrushchak

Cape Breton telecommunications company Seaside Communications helped pay for their trip after hearing Petrushchak being interviewed on the radio.

The trio stopped by the company on Friday where they served perogies and a chocolate layer cake made from an old family recipe as a gesture of thanks.

Resettlement fund

In anticipation of more Ukrainians coming to the province, the Rural Communities Foundation of Nova Scotia has set up a resettlement fund.

Executive director Penny Cooper said knowing that Nova Scotia families would be hosting Ukrainian families fleeing the conflict, the board of directors wanted to do something to help within the organization's mandate.

"We wanted to have something that was available to help those people coming off the plane," Cooper said.

"Sometimes they just have a suitcase. They have nothing with them. And also to help the families that are hosting them."

She said because the foundation is a registered charity, people who donate to the resettlement fund will be given a tax receipt.

She said they will work with other organizations, charities and municipalities to ensure that funds get to the people who need them.

Cooper said there are relatively few people coming to the province now so it's fairly easy to offer assistance to those who need a few new clothes or groceries for a few weeks.

As the need increases, she said, they are hoping Nova Scotians step up and donate more to the fund .

She said the next step for the foundation will be working with organizations like the the YMCA and the Ukrainian Canadian Congress to mentor and support Ukrainian families.

Cooper said while larger population centres like Halifax or Sydney may have lots of funds available to help, smaller communities where people are being hosted may not have the necessary resources.

"Because we're a pan-Nova Scotia organization, we can see where those needs are and help funnel the funds toward those particular organizations as well," she said.

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